The Roller-Coaster of Being a Software Developer with Bipolar Disorder

The Roller-Coaster of Being a Software Developer with Bipolar Disorder


3 min read

Hopefully by this point in history most people have at least heard of Bipolar Disorder.

For those who aren't sure what it is, don't worry no judgement here...

Bipolar (type 1 in my case) is a mental health disorder characterized by extreme highs and lows in mood. If you know what you're looking for, both can be easy to spot (though, this isn't always the case for everyone).

For my presentation at least, those who know me can generally pin when I'm trending towards a high or low state. These states are known as mania and depression, respectively.

In my case, I usually struggle with mania.

I like to refer to mania as "the opposite of depression."

You might be thinking, "the opposite of depression"? That sounds like a good thing! And what's especially difficult about this condition is that mania does indeed feel great!

However it can have disastrous consequences - from emptying my bank account signing up for services or buying domain names to staying up for so long without sleep it starts to impose additional physical and mental health risks.

When I'm heading in the direction of mania, I'll often pull all-nighters writing code, and make tremendous progress in a short amount of time and feel great about myself and my project.

However you can really only last so long without sleep, and these "coding benders" as I call them, almost always crescendo in a big crash at the end, followed by a slow climb back up to reach an ever-elusive "baseline state."

But this drastically variable output has contributed to a plethora of issues in my career which crop up both in my own personal projects alongside jobs.

All jobs, self-imposed or otherwise, have expectations.

One of the most common expectations is to deliver work on given deadlines.

This has been a big struggle throughout my career, due to the aforementioned variable output... I'll kill it for a week and get way more than anyone expected done. Then those expectations rise, but now it's next week and I'm mentally and physically drained from the previous week...

You can probably see how this would be problematic.

These bouts of high and low productivity can also really cripple my own projects.

The thing I'm actively reaching towards is a state of consistent, predictable output, but believe me when I say the struggle is real.

This post could definitely go on and be embellished in areas. If you want to hear a more detailed account of these unique struggles let me know in the comments.

If you're a fellow dev struggling through the day handcuffed to your unique cocktail of mental illnesses, know that my heart goes out to you.

I'm by no means a shining example of a model developer, but I believe and I think so can you that there is light at the end of the tunnel, if you're ready to take the steps to get there.